Scotland needs to be more like New Zealand moving away from oil. SOMETHING remarkable happened last month. New Zealand became one of the first country’s to draw a clear line in the sand: not only were they not issuing any new permits for oil and gas extraction, but they were withdrawing existing government subsidies. Is this really remarkable? After all the science is clear: we must stop extracting oil and gas now if the planet has a chance of halting temperature rises at 1.5 degrees. Not tomorrow, and certainly not when the ‘black gold’ runs out. We need to halt the oil drills now. Given that stark reality, surely taking away subsidies and refusing to issue new permits is the least any government can do? Why is the New Zealand government’s actions so unusual? Why aren’t all countries making this decision? The problem can be understood in three ways: money, jobs and inertia. Money: The oil industry is enormously financially powerful, and therefore can lobby for its interests in a way that you and I can’t. Also, the oil industry continues to make a significant contribution to public finances through tax revenues, although in the case of North Sea Oil that contribution is much less than it used to be. Jobs: Around 170,000 people are directly employed in North Sea oil, with many more jobs reliant on the continued existence of the sector. Inertia: Politicians are usually short-term thinkers and risk-averse. Transitioning Scotland’s energy production, distribution and consumption away from fossil fuels to renewables takes action over a sustained period of time, and it means making tough choices about what you prioritise. It takes politicians willing to confront vested interests and shake-up the status quo to break the inertia.
The National 15th Sept 2019 read more »
FIFTY years ago, on September 14 1969, the Seaquest drilling rig struck oil for the first time in the North Sea. Brendan McKeown, its superintendent, took a helicopter out there as soon as he was radioed the news that oil was flowing. Famously, he put it in a pickle jar commandeered from the canteen and took it back to Amoco’s Great Yarmouth office, where it was poured into an ash tray, sniffed and set alight. His boss, Mitch Watt, declared: “That’s it. It’s oil.” It’s now half a century since that eureka moment and around 45 billion barrels of oil equivalent have been extracted from the North Sea. Though the Arbroath field was considered too small to warrant development at that time, it wouldn’t be long before a vast reservoir of crude oil was struck in 1970, the Forties field, and our time as a significant oil-producing nation had come. Scotland may be otherwise well placed to tell a story about itself as a forward-thinking pioneer towards net zero, but others are being more bold than the UK on this issue – for instance New Zealand’s Jacinda Ardern, who last year announced a ban on all new offshore oil exploration permits. As Muttitt puts it: “The elephant in the room is Scotland’s policy to Maximise Economic Recovery of oil and gas. When the global climate summit comes to Glasgow next year, this contradiction could become an embarrassment.” No one is looking for us to turn off the oil and gas tap today. What groups like Friends of the Earth Scotland are calling for is the establishing of an “end date”. There is no avoiding the fact that a dramatic transition is necessary – the question is who will define it, and what its timeline will be.
Herald 15th Sept 2019 read more »